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Motor racing-Past controversy dogs Schumacher on Monaco return

MONACO, May 12 (Reuters) - Michael Schumacher’s chequered past came back to needle, if not haunt, him at the Monaco Grand Prix on Wednesday.

While the seven-times Formula One world champion tried to focus on present and future, and the sixth race of his comeback season with Mercedes at the age of 41, he found the local time had barely moved on since the afternoon of May 27, 2006.

The last time the German appeared in Monaco, as a Ferrari driver four years ago, he secured pole position in Saturday qualifying by blocking the track in the dying seconds at the tight Rascasse corner.

The move, slammed by some as a blatant if clumsy attempt at cheating, prevented anyone else from bettering his time. While Schumacher protested his innocence, stewards sent him to the back of the starting grid for “an incorrect action” as controversy raged.

Former world champions, including Keke Rosberg whose son Nico is now Schumacher’s team mate, fulminated against the Ferrari great at the time.

Asked by Reuters at a meeting with reporters in the Mercedes motorhome whether he now had any regrets, Schumacher politely dodged the question and said it would change nothing to delve back into the past.

Asked again by another questioner, the winner of 91 races including five in Monaco replied: “I had great fun in the race, I have to say. Coming from last and going through the field and I think I finished fifth. That was good fun.”

If Schumacher thought that was the end of the matter, he was mistaken.

Another British reporter tried a different approach: “That Saturday was one of those points in your career wasn’t it, a sort of infamous low?,” he asked.

“You made it, yes,” replied the driver, smiling. “Some of you guys,” he added with a laugh. “I mean, let’s look forward and not backwards.”

“Well, let’s look forward,” chipped in a radio reporter, also British. “If you had to get on pole here, would you do again what you did in 2006?”

“You’re boring,” answered Schumacher, this time with a wink.

The British press tried one final assault, this time with a verbal battering ram.

“They say that sorry is the hardest word. Is there any reason you are not able to say sorry for four years ago?,” enquired the man from a tabloid newspaper that fiercely defended the likes of 1996 champion Damon Hill and David Coulthard when the Britons were competing against the German.

“I think you can keep trying, absolutely, but as I said before I am not in 2006 any more,” replied Schumacher, the smile on his face wearing a little thin.

“I think there is enough said and I don’t feel I need to dig any deeper into it.”

Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email